9 Of The Most Wanted Gadgets… Of 1952
We thumb through the pages of Popular Science to find the carpet-sewing machines and robotic soda jerks that no doubt populated Christmas lists 60 years ago. Happy Black Friday!
We have posted several gift guides over the past few days, in anticipation of Black Friday, that most holy of days for those who love shopping and trampling people. But maybe you’re a little overwhelmed by all the new technology out there. Maybe you yearn for a simpler time when kids played with model trains and not iPads, when the concept of a machine pouring your drink instead of a person was novel.
Never you fret. We’ve got you covered. We went back 60 years into the Popular Science archive and found the most exciting gadgets from 1952. There’s options for any budget–from the lightest car available (at the time) to a vintage GPS that’s basically just a map-holder. We also found one gadget, the last slide in the gallery, that would make the perfect present for just about anybody. You’re welcome.
Popular Science solved the mystery of why kids get tired of model train sets: “Nine times out of 10 it is because the layout is on the floor. That’s like putting glue on a fielder’s mitt. You just can’t play that way. Dad gets cricks in his back, Mom can’t clean, track and rolling stock are stepped on, and Junior realizes that broadloom doesn’t look much like scenery.” Also, rugburn, guys. If you want your child to really love you, you’ll construct this table to house the trains. Also, to ensure that your kid actually plays with the thing you spent all this time making, and doesn’t wander off to go to the movies, or eat, or something, build the table around him, as pictured here. If he still manages to escape, you could build a “control station” and put it over his head.
Where do those giant bows in Christmas car commercials come from? They look expensive. But it would definitely be really fun to wrap something in one, so if you need a car anyway, buy one for your sweetie as a present, so you look really generous, but really you just picked the car you wanted and you’re going to use it all the time anyway. In 1952, we would have recommended the Willys light car–hundreds of pounds lighter than the other two American light cars, goes zero to 60 in 20.5 seconds and gets 35 miles per gallon. When we testdrove it, we found that it exceeded even the maker’s claims for it. Also, very stylish, with a nice flat roof, perfect for holding a bow.
So it doesn’t exactly look cuddly, but if you’re going for verisimilitude, get your little one this doll with a built-in clockwork motor that slowly pays out a cable, little by little, “giving the effect of growth.” Your son or daughter will probably be delighted to see their companion growing just like they do, but you may find yourself looking over your shoulder when you’re alone in the dark house.
The problem with your friends who like to cook is that they probably already have the essential kitchen tools. But we bet they don’t have this combination tomato slicer/server (perfect for when you want to serve guests a single slice of tomato), or this “roll cutter,” which appears to slice up otherwise perfectly good rolls.
Nothing brings families together like installing new carpet, and this lawn-mower-like device means you can do it yourself. Surprise your family by wrapping up a few strips of carpet and then debut this carpet-sewing machine when they stare at you with puzzled, disappointed eyes. “It’ll be fun!” you’ll exclaim. “Look, we just line up the edges of the carpet and the special stitching device will join the two edges, just like in the magazines!”
And by GPS, we mean map. But it is displayed in a tray on your dashboard, so it’s like a GPS in that way. Even more so if you speak to yourself in a soothing British accent while navigating. Having the map held down is a huge improvement on trying to unfold one of those giant monstrosities and somehow locate the tiny section that’s relevant to you at that moment. The inventors also clearly knew what road trips are really about, because “pulled out and left flat, the map case would double as a food tray.”
Is Junior tired after you take him out to “throw around the old pigskin” and end up giving him a three-hour treatise on exactly how to blitz, and no we are not going back inside until you get it right? Does he lie there inert from utter exhaustion? Then perhaps an oxygen tank is just the thing he’ll love to see in his stocking. A few whiffs of the Vitalator give athletes “a fast pickup after physical exertion.” The Mine Safety Appliance Co. says that “inhaling oxygen brings heart and lungs back to normal faster than breathing air,” and why wouldn’t we trust them?
“This automatic soft drink dispenser can’t kid the girls and discuss baseball scores with the men, but it does practically everything else that a live soda jerk does.” Without all that pesky yammering, am I right? We went into great detail on how the robot soda jerk works, but if you’ve been to any restaurant ever, you probably have a pretty good idea. This machine requires you to insert a coin before dispensing your delicious beverages, but if you’re rich enough to buy one, quarters are probably like so much pocket lint to you anyway.
No trees? No problem. This hammock folds up into a “combination backpack and shoulder bag,” which you could probably bring anywhere without arousing suspicion, and then pop open into not only a hammock, but a hammock with a canopy for shade. “Where are you going?” your co-workers will ask. “Oh, I just have a meeting, in the conference room, thought I’d carry my papers in this backpack,” you’ll reply vaguely. Shut the door, BOOM, hammock. Long commute? Don’t want to stand clutching the germy steel pole on the train? BOOM, hammock. No seats available at the bar? BOOM, hammock. Mom, Dad, this is what I want for Christmas. Take note.